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Football League style game (AFL inspired)

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Joined: 10/20/2009

I've been putting together ideas for a game over the last month or so. I am happy with the overall framework, but stuck in a handful of specific spots which prevent me from getting the game to spot where it could be playtested. I'll give a brief overview, then offer up one or two problems that people might be willing to comment on.

The game is based upon a complete league season of AFL football. However, most of the same concepts could apply to any team-based sporting league with which you are familiar.

The game is structured with two alternating phases. One phase is the training week phase, the other phase is the matchday phase.

The training week phase is a competitive action space placement phase, similar for example, to Agricola. In this phase, players use 'Coach' tokens to exclusively occupy action spaces which can be used to augment their playing squad, or other club variables. Examples of action spaces which coach tokens could occupy to augment the team include specific types of training, rest, medical treatment, player substitution (take a player in your squad who did not play last week, and bring him in to play the following week), rookie development, and tactic development (a tactic card is played during match day). Examples of action spaces which augment other club variables include expansion of facilities (more coach tokens in future), membership drive (more financial reward for future league match wins), and the recruitment of specific coaching and medical staff. Each player may have 2-4 coach tokens to place each training phase, and ideally, training phase would take only a few minutes each time, slightly lengthening as the game gets older.

The matchday phase is a very basic simulation of a match. Each player has a hand of 10 players, 7 of which take the field each match (this is a significant reduction in the number of players in a real match, but suits the game). Although I am having some trouble developing the right balance between simplicity and complexity for matchday resolution, the core mechanic that I am working with at the moment is that each player has a few statistics, which are augmented for the match by the tactic card that each coach plays, and then each player is matched up with his opposite number, and count the number of match-ups that each team won. Since the matchday resolution amounts to a relatively simple calculation that follows directly from the state of the team at the end of the training phase, each matchday phase should last for only a few minutes.

Therefore, the game is mainly about shuffling about the playing group and tactics about (in the training phase) in order to be ready to face your next opponent (in the match phase). Changes to the tactic and playing group are kept hidden (ie. cards are facedown) until matchday, so there is the element of the known (the team members and tactic cards which were played in the previous matchday remain face-up) with the unknown (the changes to team and tactics which are face down until the end of the training phase). I believe that if I balance it correctly, then
i) although there might be a 'favourite' every matchday, a good choice of playing group changes and tactical changes could change the result and
ii) earlier in the game, there could be a nice tension between making the changes you believe will win you the match this week, and developing your club structure to make it easier to make the required changes to win more games in future weeks...

Ok, so now a few problems for anyone who might like to help...

As you can see, the above game has no intrinsic random element (there are some minor random elements which have not been discussed above - such as which cards are available for draft for example). I am happy with this. However, it is important to create sufficient motivation for the players to change their playing group around. What I'm saying is, players will probably have a 'best 7 cards', and I'm trying to make sure there is sufficient motivation for players to use their full 10 card squad. The only mechanic i have so far is kind of clumsy...

- each matchday, every team member who plays accumulates an 'exhaustion chit'. For every exhaustion chit accumulated beyond the third, the team member participates in the match at -1 to his key statistics. When a team member is removed from the field, all exhaustion chits are removed. I'm considering the possibility of action spaces (ie. physio? ice baths?) which may be used to remove exhaustion chits from team members without removing them from the matchday board, but I'm afraid of adding any feature which will decrease the incentive of rotating the playing squad.

Another feature I would like to somehow include is injury. Injury would be good because it enforces the use of other squad members. Also, if the likelihood of injury was in proportion to the number of exhaustion chits, then that would provide further incentive to rotate the playing group. Here is the problem. I was trying to not include dice, but the only way I can think of to implement a proportional likelihood for each player is to roll a die for each one. That is 14 dice rolls per match. Tedious, boring, and a stupid game element.

Just considering injury a bit further, I definitely do not want an injury mechanic that the player can not manage in some way. In other words, just as 14 dice rolls is no good, it would also be no good if any player could be struck down at any time with equal likelihood. The problem with this is that it does not increase the incentive for players to rotate the playing squad.

So, how can I implement an injury risk in proportion to the duration a team member has been on the field (number of exhaustion chits) without a ridiculous number of dice rolls?

Also, can you suggest any other mechanics to encourage players to rotate the playing group?

I actually have many other questions i could put out there, but I'll start with this...

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